Vietnam: crisis continues

  The stand off between the Church and authorities in Hanoi shows no signs of easing. Yesterday Mgr Joseph Dang Duc Ngan from Lang Son and hundreds of priests from Ha Nam, Ha Tay and Nam Dinh led a march of thousands of Catholics to pray at the gates of the former nunciature which is being demolished by government workers. The compound is surrounded by heavily armed police. During the night, while about 500 police looked on, a gang of 100 men forced their way through the prayer vigil, threw over an altar. and poured oil on a statue of Our Lady. Elsewhere in the last three days, groups have attacked people praying, ransacked St Gerard chapel and an outdoor altar, destroying statues and images. A Redemptorist spokesman said: "The attackers were shouting slogans, calling for the murder of the archbishops and Thai Ha superior, Fr Matthew Vu Khoi Phung." Yesterday the chairman of Hanoi's People's Committee Nguyen The Thao threatened to "severely punish" the archbishop of Hanoi, Mgr Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, and all those like him for "stirring up the population, launching false accusations against the government, mocking the law and dividing the nation." The cathedral and archbishop's residence, a seminary and other church buildings are still virtually under siege. Anti-riot squads in full gear with dogs are deployed throughout the area and telephones there have been jammed. Yesterday the Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media launched an urgent appeal on behalf of the human and religious rights of Vietnamese Catholics. Source: Agencies

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